Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 26, 2022
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen and Assistant-Secretary-General Msuya, for your briefings. My delegation would also like to express its gratitude to Ms. Nirvana Shawky, not only for her detailed briefing, but most importantly for the lifesaving work done by her organization and so many other international humanitarian organizations operating in the difficult environment that is Syria.
Ms. Shawky, you said you didn’t want to leave us hopeless, but the crisis you’ve described in Syria certainly is staggering. Nearly 15 million people needing humanitarian assistance – that number increasing, not decreasing; 90 percent of the people in Syria facing extreme poverty. It’s clear vulnerable populations, as you describe, are having to make horrible choices between purchasing food, or medicine, or fuel, or education, or paying for housing. I agree with you: We all need to do better for the Syrian people.
The Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2585 last year, underscoring our shared imperative to address the humanitarian crisis. The United States is firmly committed to fully implementing all aspects of this resolution, including by providing financial support for early recovery. We support all modalities so that aid can reach those in need, and we welcome the cross-line convoy to the northwest in March. These missions are not easy to undertake and we know they pose great risks to the humanitarian personnel. So, we are very grateful to the UN and others who worked collectively to make those deliveries happen.
Yet, I think as we’ve heard, it’s undeniable that cross-line aid cannot yet meet the vast needs of Syria’s population. The cross-border mechanism remains an irreplaceable lifeline for millions of Syrians. The UN has consistently demonstrated it has the ability to facilitate the transparent delivery of humanitarian aid into northwest Syria, and there is no substitute for the 1,000 truckloads that transit Bab al-Hawa containing food, medicine, and supplies that reach millions of people each month.
This Council must reauthorize and expand the cross-border humanitarian mandate this summer. Absent reauthorization, millions more people will be subjected to even more deprivation and even more hardship. I agree with the Secretary-General, as Assistant-Secretary-General Msuya quoted, renewal of Resolution 2585 “is a moral and humanitarian imperative.”
In addition to our work here in the Council, next month, the EU and UN will co-host, as we heard from Ms. Shawky, the Brussels VI conference. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our continued commitment to the Syrian people and to the communities that host refugees. The United States strongly encourages robust pledges to address the increasing humanitarian needs in Syria and for the host countries in the region.
While we work collectively to address the humanitarian crisis, we must acknowledge the primary cause of 11 years of conflict, is what has been perpetrated by the Assad regime on its own people. We commend the UN and all humanitarian actors who continue to tirelessly work to address this devastating reality for millions of people, but humanitarian aid continues to be only a stopgap. The most effective and sustainable means to resolve the humanitarian situation is through a nationwide ceasefire and a political solution, as outlined in Resolution 2254.
To that end, the United States appreciate the efforts of Special Envoy Pedersen and his team to promote an inclusive political process. We support the Constitutional Committee as a mechanism for dialogue. We urge the regime’s delegation to the Constitutional Committee to meaningfully engage in line with the format agreed by all participants, and not obstruct the talks.
In addition to efforts with the Constitutional Committee, I would like to say that we do urge you, Special Envoy Pedersen, to continue to redouble your efforts on all aspects of Resolution 2254, including on the protracted issue of those arbitrarily detained and missing. As High Commissioner Bachelet said earlier this month, there has been a clear lack of progress on this file, even as we enter the 12th year of conflict.
The U.S. joined other members of the Human Rights Council in condemning ongoing abuses in Syria, including those against detainees back in the HRC 49th session. At least 152,000 persons remain missing and/or arbitrarily detained in Syria, and tens of thousands have been subjected to torture or ill-treatment and lack access to legal representation or medical care in detention. We await the UN’s recommendations for measures to enhance attention to hasten the release of those arbitrarily detained souls in Syria.
And we urge those with influence over the Assad regime to encourage the regime to undertake large-scale unilateral releases, including of women, children, and the disabled; to please cease additional arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and egregious abuses against prisoners; and allow immediate, unhindered access to third-party prison monitors and medical services for all detainees.
Madam President, in conclusion, pursuing accountability and justice is essential, both to building confidence in the political process that we called for in Resolution 2254 and in securing the stable, just, and enduring peace that the Syrian people so much need and deserve.